The independent research is based on a survey of 205 individuals who studied for the NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism who were contacted within 6-10 months of completing their course.
NCTJ chairman Kim Fletcher considers the findings and what they mean for the charity.
The good news is that journalists with NCTJ qualifications are getting jobs: the bad news is that the pay is poor.
When students who had studied on our accredited courses were asked what they were doing now, some 82 per cent said they were in work, compared with 70 per cent of leavers from higher education courses across all subjects. But their median salary was £17,500, some £3,000 less than the level for all graduates from higher education.
We’ve known for years that journalism is rarely a way to wealth, but financial challenges have done little to dent the enthusiasm of those attracted to the trade. Rather, the question has been finding a way in.
Does a diploma help? It looks as if it does. The figures above came in a survey commissioned by the NCTJ, seeking to discover what was happening to students who studied for our diploma qualification, whether on MA, undergraduate, academic year, part-time or fast-track courses. Studying for the Diploma in Journalism is a big commitment, not least in financial terms. We needed to know what had happened to those who had studied for it.
All journalists should be sceptical about surveys, which have become the basis for too many news stories. It is easy to make sweeping assertions involving big populations on the basis of small sample sizes. We know too there are many successful journalists who have barely passed any examination, let alone an NCTJ diploma. Yet the findings of this report, based on 205 responses, is encouraging.
Most of those in work who responded to the survey were in the creative media sectors – 30 per cent in newspapers, 11 per cent in magazines, seven per cent in television, four per cent in radio and nine per cent in an online or digital sector. A third (35 per cent) were working elsewhere. Of those in journalism jobs, 77 per cent said the NCTJ diploma was a necessity or an advantage.
Our diploma is designed to equip students with the practical skills employers look for. It entails mandatory units in news reporting, multimedia portfolio, ethics, media law and regulation, public affairs and shorthand for journalists, and at least two optional units, such as media law court reporting, video journalism for online, sports journalism or broadcast journalism.
The 82 per cent figure for those in work that I mentioned at the start applied to those who completed the courses, irrespective of whether they had actually passed the diploma. When we look at those who passed, we see 96 per cent of those who attained the gold standard – grades A – C in all modules and 100 words per minute in the shorthand examination – in employment, 90 per cent of those who attained diploma standard and 72 per cent of those who did not actually complete their diploma.
It would have been embarrassing for us if students with the gold standard were not getting anywhere: happily they are. According to the survey, they were more likely to be in a permanent job (68 per cent) and more likely to be in a job that was related to journalism (86 per cent).
The results are encouraging, but we take nothing for granted. As the demands of the media develop, so must our courses and qualifications. We’d like to do something about the salaries too, but they are beyond our control.
The full report can be viewed on the NCTJ website.